Gain the Edge

Ten ways to score the college internship you want.

Securing the Ideal Internship

Internships prepare you for getting the job you want. That’s the bottom line. Prospective employers want to see that you have real work experience (taking coffee orders doesn’t count). Think about being in charge of an important project or acquiring skills relevant to your field.

Why do an internship? We can’t think of a reason not to, but in case you need convincing: 1) You’ll get a taste of the working world; 2) you’ll impress your future boss; and 3) you’ll try on a career in your field. You may find the job involves more interesting work than you thought. Or you may decide, “Hey, I don’t see myself doing this.” And isn’t that good to find out before you make a big commitment?

Finding an internship is like online dating—the job description may sound perfect, but the reality can be completely different. You could find the perfect match on the first try, or you might have to meet a bunch of people to get to the right one. But finding a great internship is possible. Here are 10 tips that will get you to “yes!”:

1. Don’t Go It Alone

People are standing by to help with this process. You can start with your college internship office, which usually has lists of organizations and contacts. Ask professors about opportunities in your major. Look into internship websites, open a LinkedIn account, and quiz your family and friends about work possibilities. The more leads you turn up, the better internship options you’ll have.

2. Be Your Own Advocate

This is a life lesson. You know yourself best—your strengths, weaknesses, goals, and desires. Share that information with the people who can help. By getting to know the staff in the internship office or the career resources center, they’ll get to know you, and be better able to steer you toward work opportunities that are a good fit.

3. Tap Your Inner Investigator

Research your field or industry. Look at job descriptions and resumes in your field. What skills are employers looking for? What sorts of entry-level jobs exist in your field and within the organization where you’re thinking of interning?

4. Put an Employer’s Interests First

In an interview, focus on what you can do for the organization. Yes, this is an opportunity for you to learn about the profession—but employers care most about your ability to take initiative and to be a productive member of their team. Be prepared to answer the questions: “Why do you like our company and what we do?" and “Why do you want to work here?”

5. Play 20 Questions

Find out exactly what you’ll be doing. What sort of responsibilities will you be given? Will you have an opportunity to complete a project? Ask what qualities have made previous interns successful in this position.

6. Get the Low Down

Talk to other students who have worked for the organization where you’re considering an internship. They can pass along information about supervisors and expectations on the job, so if you decide to work there, you’ll be prepared going in. Preparation makes you more confident. And more important, if they raise red flags, you can look elsewhere, saving you both time and aggravation.

7. Know the Difference Between an Internship and a Co-op

Some colleges use the terms interchangeably, but they’re not the same. An internship is initiated by the student and generally lasts for a semester. Co-ops (aka cooperative education) involve an ongoing partnership between the college and an organization in which the student alternates a semester of full-time work at a company (often for pay) followed by a semester in school, and so on.

8. Maximize Your Summer

Some organizations offer jobs or internships during the summer. You’ll get more out of a full-time work experience that lasts all summer than one you do for two or three times a week after classes. Employers get to know you better when you spend more time on site, which can translate into more responsibility on the job and the greater likelihood of a job offer after you graduate.

9. Play by the Rules

Let’s say you find an internship through your own research. In order to receive academic credit for that internship, you’ll likely need to get prior approval from the internship office by a certain deadline. Meet the deadline and everyone will be happy.

10. Think Outside the Internship

There are other ways to gain the practical experience that employers want. Internships are just one piece of the puzzle. By getting involved on campus, taking on leadership roles in clubs and residence life, participating in community service projects and in study abroad programs, you add to your resume and show that you’re an active, contributing member of your college community. These activities, combined with internships, help make you irresistible to employers.

The Lesley Approach

We understand how important internships are. Our goal is to provide students with support at each stage, from identifying and applying for internships to working on site. Internships at Lesley University are credit bearing—associated with an internship seminar—and there is a unique collaboration between the site supervisor and the seminar instructor. Seminars also give students the opportunity to discuss challenges, receive feedback, and reflect on their experience with peers in their field.

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